#MusicExchange: Rapid-fire Q&A with neo-soul sensation Lily Hollows

The Johannesburg-based neo-soul singer Lily Hollows burst onto the South African music scene in 2018 with her debut single, Daddy I’m Gone.

Since then, the indie artist has taken the genre of soulful jazz and crafted it into her own with a fusion of grunge and elegance.

Lily Hollows adds voice to RADA compilation

The talented 21-year-old singer/songwriter’s latest song, Rebuild, features on the RADA Unearthed Vol 2 compilation. 

The registered non-profit organisation was launched in 2014 by founding member JP Nobrega and strives to empower people to live their best life by giving them the tools necessary to make responsible and wise decisions.

RADA is committed to the eradication of society’s gravest and most pressing social ills. The team adopts a holistic approach to healing, with a pro-active side through their training development centre.

Active pursuit of social change

Penned by Lily herself, Rebuild was produced by Howie Combrink from The Hit Lab and is an authentic ballad focusing on issues of gender-based violence (GBV).

“I’m grateful to be able to team up with RADA,” said Lily.

“RADA is a dynamic organisation built on the principles of empowerment. Seeing the positive difference they’re making in our country is so sobering. As South Africans, we need to be part of the active pursuit of social change.”

The music video which accompanies the track was shot at the St Laurence’s Children’s Haven, which is a RADA-adopted home.  The haven is a place of safety for children who have been abused, neglected and abandoned. 

“Rebuild is a call to action. It is a song that speaks of pain, suffering and brokenness.  It also speaks of change, upliftment and healing,” Lily added.

Watch and listen to Lily Hollows’ ‘Rebuild’ track here: 

Rapid-Fire Q&A with Lily Hollows:  

The new decade means?

That we’ve marked yet another 10 trips around the sun.

Fame is about?

Popularity created in a social hierarchy of influence. And Grumpy Cat. 

Retirement will happen when?

As a performer and creative being, I am my art. Thus, I will retire when I have taken my last breath.

I don’t do?

Coffee. It just makes me anxious in fast-forward 

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Image: Supplied

What does music  mean to you?

How does the summer breeze explain to the blossom that without the dance of its petals, its breath is wasted?

What is the most enjoyable aspect of your work?

It’s that buzz, the euphoria I get when a chord melts into another, or when I find the perfect lyrical punch line.

It’s the thrill of creating. 

Any funny moments on stage?

I have definitely never had a princess tiara get stuck in my hair, tangle itself upside down in pure defiance and stay there for the remainder of the performance.

Nope. I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Your heroes?

Will Smith. He was my first celebrity crush too. Dynamic, honorable, virtuous. This man is my role model.

Which living person do you admire most and why?

I was five, wrapped up in my purple kitten hoodie, holding Mumsie’s hand, while we strolled down the streets of Pershore. A young girl, who looked close to my age, smiled at me. My heart burst with pure delight. I became a sucker for sisterhood.

This girl will have no recollection of me. Not even a mere memory, but I remember her. I admire her for the spark that set my heart for female camaraderie ablaze.

What is your most treasured possession?

See, this is a difficult question, because I am a hoarder. I am incredibly sentimental. I keep things like the napkin my brother doodled on in a restaurant, or the metal shavings after he’s crafted something in the workshop, or a piece of his car’s door handle (don’t tell him that).

The weight of the treasure lies not in the physical possession, but the significance thereof.

It’s your round: What are you drinking?

Honeyed jasmine tea. Have you ever had a flower bloom in your chest? That’s what drinking this tea feels like.

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Image: Supplied

Dream gig to do?

A duet with Michael Bublé. His voice is like maple syrup *swoons*.

What makes you stand out?

Not my height, I’ll tell you that! However, I’ve been told I have a nice mind, which I appreciate, considering I work really hard on growing it.

Nicknames?

Lily popz, Lils, Little, The Short One With The Curly Hair, and my absolute favourite being Burnout Babe (this one hits home, because I have a tendency to throw myself into my work, PLUS I love the alliteration).

If you were not a musician what would you do?

I would work in the field of neuroscience and behavioral investigation. The brain is such an intricate marvel, that it cannot even understand itself yet. 

Pick five words to describe yourself?

Compassionate, inquisitive, ambitious, energetic, onion (it’s all about the layers).

Five favourite SA  albums of all time ?

  1. Hometalk – Mango Groove
  2. King Zamar – Lady Zamar
  3. Guns and Money – Shadowclub
  4. 1440 – Spiritchaser
  5. Mi Casa – Mi Casa

Greatest movie ever made?

Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. I have one word: Mermaids!

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What song changed your life? 

Survivor by Destiny’s Child. As a waddling toddler, this was my go-to performance song. Granted my lyrical rendition went along the lines of “I’m a ka-vivor” (no idea), or “I’m a MacGyver”.

Whenever I sang this, I had a surge of bliss. This was the song that made me realise that I have a passion for performance.

Who do you love?

I think the real question here, is whom don’t I love? Humans just want love and acceptance and I’m here to spread it. I’m a softie like that.

What is your favourite word?

“Hemoglobin”. It’s the protein that carries oxygen in red blood cells (this is my favourite kind of cell). My favourite color is burgundy (specifically, the shade of deoxygenated blood) so it’s a fitting favorite word. It just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Hemoglobin.

Favourite fashion garment? 

My brown combat boots. Am I headed to a performance? Am I headed on an adventure? You’ll never know…

Give us some real proper slang and what it means 

Okay, so I’ve formulated a word that I use as slang. “Pleggy” (pleh-ghy – but make the “g” hard and guttural). It’s the epitome of all “bleh”.

Oh? You’ve had a long day and now you’re stuck in traffic with an empty tank? That’s pleggy. Your blender exploded and spat your celery smoothie across the kitchen wall? I bet you feel pleggy. Did your mother tell you to take a jacket with, but you refused because your outfit was too good to cover up, and now you’re rocking back and forth in the evening breeze and your mother raises her eyebrow. Now THAT’S pleggy.

Top of your bucket list?

I really want to meet Sophia the Robot, created by Hanson Robotics. I’ve always been fascinated by AI, so “meeting” her would be incredible.

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Sophia the Robot. Image: hansonrobotics.com

Your greatest achievement?

Releasing my first EP in 2018. I’m constantly learning, growing, working on my craft.

What do you complain about most often?

Why, oh WHY do my jeans not have pockets? In the rare occasion that they do, they’re little slits that could probably fit about two R5 coins before my jeans are bursting at the seams.

Have you ever seen how a woman can balance her keys, phone, purse, and lip balm and travel mug in ONE HAND? It’s because of the pockets. We’ve been forced to evolve. But we’re tired. Please just give us pockets.

What is your fear?

Unicorns. Sure, they look cute, but imagine having a glittery horse charge towards you; hooves clattering, nostrils flared, that unstable (ha ha, because that’s where horses sleep… get it?) look in its eyes, and on top of that, you have to dodge a spiralled horn?! No, thank you. 

Happiness is?

Contrary to popular belief, it’s a nine-letter word, not four. I’m not sure who’s been counting before that, but they didn’t do a very good job at it. Speaking of numbers, three is the best one. Now that’s happiness.

On stage I tend to?

In the paraphrased words of the great Eminem — I lose myself in the music, the moment, I own it, I better never let it go.

The best life lesson you have been taught?

My mother once told me that you couldn’t run from your problem, if the problem is you.

Do you get worked up while watching a sports game on TV ?

Never. I do, however, get a little distressed when my cousin launches herself off the couch to reprimand her onscreen rugby team. Popcorn flies, the juice on the table ripples with each bellowing syllable of her sheer disappointment. Do better, boys. Do better. 

Where would you like to be right now?

Ideally, I’d be sipping tea on a train snaking through emerald hills, like a scene from one of those arty French films. 

Do you do charity work — and if you do — what do you do ?

I recently got onboard with RADA. We actually just got back from a trip to Philippolis in the Free State, where we handed out MiPads. These are reusable sanitary pads that last for five years, which allows for confidence in staying in school. 

Wishes and dreams ?

Simply put: To make a positive impact.

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